Spain’s bishops decry decision to legalize euthanasia

Spain’s bishops decry decision to legalize euthanasia

People protest against a law to legalize euthanasia as the Spanish Parliament prepares to vote on it in Madrid in this Dec. 17, 2020, file photo. Spain's parliament was set to pass controversial legislation March 18 legalizing physician-assisted suicide; Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg also allow physician-assisted suicide. (Credit: Susana Vera/Reuters via CNS.)

Spain's Catholic bishops have condemned the legalization of euthanasia in the country on Thursday.

ROME – Spain’s Catholic bishops have condemned the legalization of euthanasia in the country on Thursday.

The country’s parliament approved the law 202 to 141 vote on Thursday, and it will go into effect in three months.

“This is a moment to promote conscience objection and promote all that which is related with this culture of life that wants to have a red line strongly saying ‘You shall not kill’,” said Bishop Luis Argüello, secretary general of the Spanish bishops’ conference.

“Unfortunately, they’ve tried to find a solution to avoid suffering, by inducing the death of someone who is suffering,” he said. “It’s dramatic that there are 60,000 people who every year die in Spain suffering, when this could be remedied with an adequate policy of palliative care.”

Spain’s new legislation makes it the fourth country in Europe to legalize assisted suicide, after Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Argüello said this is time for “promoting a culture of life and taking concrete steps promoting a living will or advance declarations that make it possible for Spanish citizens to express their desire to receiving palliative care in a clear and determined way: Their desire not to be subject to the application of this euthanasia law.”

The bishop added this is also a time for the Catholic Church to remind Spanish society that “you will not willingly cause the death of person to alleviate suffering, but on the contrary, you will care for, practice tenderness, closeness, mercy, [inspire] encouragement [and] hope for those people who are in the final stretch of their existence, perhaps in moments of suffering that need comfort, care and hope.”

Once the law is applied, anyone over the age of 18 who suffers “a grave and incurable” disease, or “serious, chronic and incapacitating condition” that affects autonomy and that generates “constant and intolerable physical or psychological suffering” can choose to end their life.

Several bishops went to social media to voice their concern over the legalization.

Among them was Cardinal Carlos Osoro, the Archbishop of Madrid.

“The pandemic should cause a paradigm shift: Let’s move from the selfish search for our own well-being to caring … We are caregivers of others and, therefore, it is dramatic that today we are betting on euthanasia,” he wrote.

Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, said the new legislation would be used to coerce those who are terminally ill to see death as their only option.

“We cannot consider ourselves an advanced society by approving a law that encourages the sick to throw in the towel and end their existence,” he argued.

While the bill was being debated, the Catholic Church fought against the law, saying palliative care wasn’t being adequately utilized in the country.

In a statement released Sept. 14, the bishops argued that the advocating for the “right to euthanasia” is a reductionist view of the human person that presents a freedom detached from responsibility.

“On the one hand, the social dimension of the human being is denied, [by] saying ‘My life is mine and only mine and I can take it away,’ and, on the other hand, it’s asked that someone else — that is, organized society — legitimize the decision,” the bishops wrote.

Five days later, several Spanish bishops were welcomed by Pope Francis in the Vatican, and they reportedly discussed the issue at length.

“It’s an issue that worries the pope,” Omella told journalists in Rome after the meeting. “I believe it’s not only about dying or not dying, but also [about] pain and accompaniment. When one receives treatment for pain and feels accompanied by family and professionals, one wants to live.”

“The issue of life is not only about refugees, it’s from the child in the mother’s womb until death,” he said.

“Death is not the end,” the cardinal said. “It’s the door to the other side. If we know how to share this with the person who’s ill, perspectives change. But if we say that this is it, we’re taking hope and spirituality away, things we all carry in our heart. The human person is called to eternity and love.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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